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Prison Reallignment At Donovan, 650 Fewer Inmates But Still Crowded

Inside a Level 4 inmate's cell at the R.J. Donovan Correctional Facility.
Angela Carone
Inside a Level 4 inmate's cell at the R.J. Donovan Correctional Facility.
Patrick Logan, Donovan Prison
Still Crowded At Donovan Even With 650 Fewer Inmates
GuestLieutenant Patrick Logan, Public Information Officer for Richard J. Donovan Correctional Facility

CAVANAUGH: Is this KPBS Midday Edition. I'm Maureen Cavanaugh. It's Thursday, February 23rd. Our top story on Midday Edition, California's prison realignment policy has only been in effect for a few months, and it's already being felt in the state prison system. Not only is the number of inmates shrinking but the number of department of corrections staff is being reduced as well. My guest is lieutenant Patrick Logan, public information officer for Donovan correctional facility here in San Diego County. And lieutenant Logan, welcome to the show. LOGAN: Thank you for having me. CAVANAUGH: Remind us how the prison realignment policy changes which convicted criminals go to state prison, and which remain in county jail. LOGAN: What it does is it's taking all nonvilint, nonserious sex offenders, and they're being transitioned over to the county jails to be able to serve their time. CAVANAUGH: And there's been a reason along with them, big changes in parole violation policy too. LOGAN: From my understanding, a lot of the nonserious, nonviolent are now going to be supervised by the county as opposed to the state parole. CAVANAUGH: How have these changes affected the inmate population in Donovan in recent months? LOGAN: Since its implementation in October 1st, we've seen approximately 1000 inmate population drop since that time. CAVANAUGH: That's kind of amazing in such a short period of time. Have you been able to figure out exactly why you've lost so many people so quickly? LOGAN: We basically believe we had a lot of people coming in through parole violations, and that was just that revolving door. And we're starting to see that drop. And we're no longer within our gyms, no longer housing people in our dayroom floors. So everybody is pretty much in a cell now. So that's good. CAVANAUGH: That's a big change. We did stories last year that Donovan was one of those facilities housing way more inhates than it was built for. Is the prison population though still overcapacity? LOGAN: From what I can tell walking on the yards and walking in the facilities, we have all inmates within cells. So I can see that maybe the statewide is still a little bit overcrowded; we still have a ways to go toward reduction from the Court's mandate. But at Donovan, we're looking good. CAVANAUGH: Looking at the original capacity figures for Donovan, I think you're still off balance by approximately a thousand prisoners. But you say that the facility is now housing the prisoners in a much different way. Explain a little bit more about how this has changed living conditions for the prisoners. LOGAN: When we were overcrowded prior to AB109, we had inmates within our gym facility, we were using double and triple bunks to house them. Now we're out of all of our gym, and they're actually looking at turning those back over to the inmate population for the intention they were used, as gymnasiums. We were also housing inmates within our dayroom, and all those have been deactivated. And we no longer have that situation. CAVANAUGH: Are there still more inmates in cells than the prison is designed for? LOGAN: I'm not aware of that. From what I could tell, we have all the inmates within the cells. I don't know exactly how they do design capacity. But from what I can tell you, it's really had a huge, huge drop in our population. CAVANAUGH: Now, what about the staff at Donovan? We've heard that the department of corrections sent off thousands of layoff notices last fall. LOGAN: Well, with the reduction in the inmate population, we don't need as many staff anymore. So numerous staff have received what they call SROA notices, putting them on notice, not that they will be laid off just that they may be affected by it. CAVANAUGH: And do you know actually at Donovan how many positions will be ultimately eliminated? LOGAN: It changes day to day. We're seeing a lot of retirements. People are voluntarily transferring to mitigate some of those layoffs. So it's hard to say what the specific numbers are. CAVANAUGH: Ball park maybe? Under 100? LOGAN: I would say probably under 100. CAVANAUGH: What types of positions will be eliminated? LOGAN: We're looking at all positions, down from officers to office assistants. CAVANAUGH: Now, are inmate programs at Donovan being affected by the prison realignment? LOGAN: They are to a certain aspect. We're kind of having to relearn how to do business now. Everything is changing. We have less staff than we're used to. So we're having to look at how we respond to incidents, and we're addressing all those and doing it in a very safe manner. And the institution is safer for everyone. CAVANAUGH: I read on the department of corrections website that people who had been at Donovan and also at all prisons in California less than ten years were more subject to layoffers than people who had seniority. I would imagine that's the same at Donovan? LOGAN: It should be. Whatever the statewide figure would probably be accurate. CAVANAUGH: When will you hear definitively from the state about who is actually being laid off? LOGAN: From my understanding, the 29th of February is the date. CAVANAUGH: And this is only the first wave have been layoff, right? LOGAN: Correct. We've been advised by Sacramento that there may be potential layoffers in the future because our population is continuing to decline. CAVANAUGH: Lieutenant Logan, thank you so much. LOGAN: Thank you.

Update On Reallignment
An update from the California Legislative Analysts Office on the status of prison realignment, which began in October 2011.
To view PDF files, download Acrobat Reader.

Inmate Numbers at Donovan

Sep. 15, 2011: 4,341

Feb. 15, 2012: 3,693

R.j. Donovan design capacity: 2,200

In the past five months, the number of inmates has dropped by almost 650 at the Richard J. Donovan Correctional Facility in San Diego.

That drop at the state prison is almost completely due to California's prison realignment policy, Lt. Patrick Logan, Donovan’s spokesman, told KPBS.

“I attribute it all to realignment,” he said. “We’re taking a lot of those low level offenders, that revolving door that keeps coming back in, and we’re shifting them over to the county now. We’re now only housing serious offenders.”


The realignment program has only been in effect for a few months, but already it's being felt in the state prison system. Not only is the number of inmates shrinking, but the number of California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation staff is being reduced as well.

That means some staff members at Donovan could lose their jobs as early as next week, Logan said.

“We’re trying everything we can mitigate that,” he said, including using voluntary transfers, retirement and demotions.

Logan said everyone from officers to office assistants could be laid off, but that does not mean the prison its cutting its programs or services.

“In fact we’re increasing the number of programs we have,” he said.

He added that the prison is aiming to “do more with less.”

Although the prison’s numbers have been cut to about 3,600, it is still over the 2,200 capacity for which it was designed.

That means prisoners room two to a cell, when the prison was originally designed to house one prisoner in each cell, Logan said.

But, he said, the amount of crowding has greatly improved.

In the past, as KPBS has reported, the prison was so full that prisoners sometimes slept in gyms that were converted into housing units.